Before fielding questions Friday morning at his press conference, Bill Belichick took some time to offer his condolences to the family of Paul Zimmerman, the long-time Sports Illustrated NFL writer who died at the age of 87 on Thursday.
Belichick said Zimmerman was one of the most respected reporters in the game and when he wrote people took notice.
"I'll start this morning by taking a couple of minutes for a tribute to Paul Zimmerman," Belichick began. "I certainly express my condolences to the family. Paul was a great ambassador for professional football, and I think that what he did through the years with his background and insight on the draft, I would say some of the behind-the-scenes organizational insight that he gave due to his great sources and trust that he created with so many people was pretty interesting reading in the Sports Illustrated columns.
"I always kind of felt like Paul and [former Boston Globe columnist] Will McDonough were kind of two of the really well-connected, respected writers that covered the game, certainly when I came into the game and then for many years thereafter.
"So, certainly a sad day to hear about his passing. He made a great contribution and certainly popularized a lot of things that today have blossomed into major, major stories and events that I'd say he was in there on the ground floor on."
At that point Belichick turned things over to Green Bay, and unlike most of the week, Friday's focus was on the Packers defense. Here are some highlights from the press conference.
Two-man game – The Packers defensive line features a pair of formidable figures up front in nose tackle Kenny Clark and defensive end Mike Daniels. Belichick was asked about the challenges of dealing with Clark but found it impossible to separate the two.
"[Clark] does everything well. He and Daniels are two really good players," Belichick said. "Kenny has a little more length than Daniels does, but they're both quick, they're strong, they're active, play on their feet well, have a good motor, can go all day, play a lot of snaps.
"You know, some defensive linemen don't play as much as they do. They're in there a lot and they're productive a lot. So, both hard to block. Again, Clark's got a little more length, but they're both very disruptive players. And with their instincts, their quickness, their playing strength, high motor, good effort, makes some plays from behind, they're hard to knock off the line of scrimmage – just two really good players."
Pack attack – Green Bay has turned up the heat in terms of blitzing in recent week under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Belichick understands the challenges that go into dealing with the Packers pressure packages.
"They do a good job mixing it up," Belichick said. "Certainly, if you're not picking it up, they're going to keep blitzing you. So, I mean, I'd say that's the message. If you can't handle it, then Coach Pettine will just keep firing them in there.
"So, yeah, they give you a lot of different looks. There's a lot of different combinations that they use to pressure, and the ones that we're working on this week, we may not even see those. We might see something else or could be different guys, different players in different spots, so it's not quite the same identification that you had on film from another game, and sometimes that's confusing. A guy's a safety and now he's a linebacker, he was a nickel and now he's a corner, and he was a corner and now he's a dime and so forth.
"So, making sure that we have the right guy that we have a hat on a hat. Then you have to block them. I mean, that's the other part of it. Blocking Clark, blocking Daniels, blocking [Clay] Matthews – blocking those guys, that's an issue, too. But, you've got to pick them up. If they run free, then that's obviously a bigger problem. But, it's definitely a challenge. They do a good job of it and they give you a lot of different looks. I mean, it's similar to what we saw in Buffalo. That's part of Rex's [Ryan] defenses, too."
Making progress – Cornerback Duke Dawson has resumed practicing and appears poised to be added to the active roster. Belichick was asked for an update on the rookie.
"He's making progress every day," he said. "Certainly, the time that he had to rehab and get healthy or get stronger, so forth, was good for him. Now it's good to get him on the field, get him in there working on the scout team, taking some defensive reps. So, we'll see how it goes. I mean, he's, I'd say, closer every day.
"The No. 1 thing for any player is just to be healthy when they come back and be able to do everything physically that they need to be able to do. And, in the meantime, there's a lot of staying up on the material, staying up on any new calls or adjustments that we put in so they don't fall behind on those, doing walk-throughs and keeping up on the film. And then, as they get progressively healthier, start to do individual drills that don't involve contact or don't involve stress on the injury part that is being rehabilitated."